Good Parenting at Christmas

Good Parenting at Christmas
Jingle bells, jingle all the way…Parenting and Lifestyle Strategist Afy offers her top tips on how to manage your Christmas budget

Every child loves the festive season, not necessarily because they are aware of its purpose but for the dining, the merriment and receiving of presents. And here we are, with Christmas knocking at our door again, knock, knock…

I remember this popular Christmas song that I used to sing during my childhood ‘Christmas is coming, daddy buy shoe for me, Christmas is coming daddy, buy shoe for me’. I sang this song with so much excitement because I know that even if I have not received any gifts throughout the year, I would get two for Christmas - my Christmas dress and shoes - and I always looked forward to dressing up.  This is one of my childhood memories that I will never forget.

By my early twenties, the excitement of Christmas fairy tales had worn off and I came to realise that the season is about more than wining and dining. It is meant to be a time of reflection and appreciation of what Jesus symbolises. We Christians believe that Jesus came to redeem us back to God, showing LOVE, or “agape” - pure unconditional love.

Today, I believe the focus has shifted. It is more of a time to give gifts. This is no bad thing in itself; however, research shows that the number of Britons who fall into debt at Christmas due to overspending is on the increase every year. The Debt Advice National Helpline recorded 7.9 million citizens falling behind in their financial duties in 2017 January, and an additional 11% in 2018 January.

So, I would like to give you some tips on what you can do to save money during Christmas. First things first. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why am I giving this gift?
  • What does it mean to the person I am giving to?
  • Is it a do or die affair?

Answering these questions honestly may save you the hassle of buying gifts for people that you do not need to buy anything for. I am not being cruel or insensitive here. Thinking along these lines will stop you from emotionally driven buying and help you to reflect on your buying motives. Are you reciprocating a kind gesture? Or superficially trying to impress an in-law, a suitor, a friend, a colleague…Most importantly, are you really showing love?

To minimise spending during Christmas have a plan and act on your plan by…

  • Making a list of people you plan to buy a gift for. You could start compiling your list from the beginning of the year and you can always add to it as the year goes by.
  • Having a budget can reduce your chances of overspending. Agree with yourself the minimum and maximum amount you want to spend on gifts this Christmas. Live within your means and do not rely on credit cards.
  • For 2020 Christmas, start saving for gifts from January 2020. Endeavour to put funds aside on a weekly or monthly basis. Imagine saving £50 a month - that would provide £600. £120 a month will provide £1200 at the end of the year. You could do this via your bank, credit union, or building society.
  • Regular decluttering exposes you to unused items that you could sell on platforms like eBay, Amazon, Facebook…or even car boot sales on a monthly basis. Think and be creative.
  • Adopt a Secret Santa approach to giving gifts, which you can use within the family, and among friends and colleagues
  • Give presents to the kids but not to adult relatives and friends - most adults should be fine with no gift.
  • For close relatives, you could ask for a wish list, then go with what you can afford rather than getting a gift that the recipient would never use.
  • Some people may not fancy charity shops but you could get new items at a very reasonable price and support a good cause.
  • Watch out for big sales on big dates like Easter sales, Black Friday sales, summer and winter sales…you could buy your gift and store it.  An advantage of buying closer to Christmas is that it can be returned if it is not needed.
  • Scan for discount coupons and codes online, there are several apps that helps save money, I recommend Money Saving Expert. Your older children could also help with their student discount cards.
  • Listen, it's all about sacrifice - where there is a will there is a way. A couple of things spring to mind: you could sacrifice your time to do weekend jobs or you could cut down on some non-essential spending.

While it is OK to give gifts to families and friends, you could also consider giving to less privileged community members via charity organisations and food banks. Also make it a priority to spend time with your loved ones; this could be far more productive than gift giving. The gift of time is something that money can’t buy. And if you are open to volunteering, to helping or lending an ear to someone out there, this could be a perfect gift for those who need it.

Could you also take time to explain the message of Christmas to the younger ones? Remember this Christmas that you are juggling financial prudence with empathy and showing love to your children. Hence it is important to plan carefully and spend wisely to avoid financial hardship.

I always choose to enjoy every bit of the Christmas season, with or without a present because the best present ever given to me is Jesus Christ. So taking the kids to a church service or a nativity play can be a perfect gift too. 

Have a Happy Christmas and a prosperous 2020!